For 50 years, humans have scanned the skies with radio telescopes for distant electronic signals indicating the existence of intelligent alien life. The search — centered at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. — has tapped into our collective fascination with the concept that we may not be alone in the universe.
But the effort has so far proved fruitless, and the scientific community driving the SETI project has begun questioning its methodology, which entails listening to specific nearby stars for unusual blips or bleeps. Is there a better approach?
In two studies appearing in the June issue of the journal Astrobiology, the Benford brothers, along with James’ son Dominic, a NASA scientist, examine the perspective of a civilization sending signals into space – or, as Gregory Benford puts it, “the point of view of the guys paying the bill.”
“Our grandfather used to say, ‘Talk is cheap, but whiskey costs money,’” the physics professor says. “Whatever the life form, evolution selects for economy of resources. Broadcasting is expensive, and transmitting signals across light-years would require considerable resources.”
Assuming that an alien civilization would strive to optimize costs, limit waste and make its signaling technology more efficient, the Benfords propose that these signals would not be continuously blasted out in all directions but rather would be pulsed, narrowly directed and broadband in the 1-to-10-gigahertz range.
“This approach is more like Twitter and less like War and Peace, ” says James Benford, founder and president of Microwave Sciences Inc. in Lafayette, Calif.
Their concept of short, targeted blips — dubbed “Benford beacons” by the science press — has gotten extensive coverage in such publications as Astronomy Now. Well-known cosmologist Paul Davies, in his 2010 book The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence, supports the theory.
James Benford discussing beacons
This means that SETI — which focuses its receivers on narrow-band input — may be looking for the wrong kind of signals. The Benfords and a growing number of scientists involved in the hunt for extraterrestrial life advocate adjusting SETI receivers to maximize their ability to detect direct, broadband beacon blasts.
But where to look? The Benfords’ frugal-alien model points to our own Milky Way galaxy, especially the center, where 90 percent of its stars are clustered.
“The stars there are a billion years older than our sun, which suggests a greater possibility of contact with an advanced civilization than does pointing SETI receivers outward to the newer and less crowded edge of our galaxy,” Gregory Benford says.
“Will searching for distant messages work? Is there intelligent life out there? The SETI effort is worth continuing, but our common-sense beacons approach seems more likely to answer those questions.”
I always speculated that if we happened to catch a snippet of a ‘back-door’ legacy radio signal from an extraterrestrial civilization it would be a digital beacon.
By back-door I mean that it would be a left on, automated signal that would “tweet” every so often just for the expressed purpose of contacting a less advanced culture since the civilization sending it out wouldn’t be using a form of radio any longer as its’ main source of communication.
I could be wrong, but the fun is in the speculation. 😉
When it comes to the UFO phenomenon, most folks believe aliens are already visiting Earth in large numbers, even kidnapping people in order to experiment on them.
But to mainstream scientists, there is no empirical evidence of alien contact yet. In fact, some prominent scientists think human civilization should avoid contact with alien civilizations at all.
And he uses the European contact with the indigenous Native American civilizations as an example why:
THE aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.
The suggestions come in a new documentary series in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.
Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.
Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved.
“To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” he said. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”
The answer, he suggests, is that most of it will be the equivalent of microbes or simple animals — the sort of life that has dominated Earth for most of its history.
One scene in his documentary for the Discovery Channel shows herds of two-legged herbivores browsing on an alien cliff-face where they are picked off by flying, yellow lizard-like predators. Another shows glowing fluorescent aquatic animals forming vast shoals in the oceans thought to underlie the thick ice coating Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter.
Such scenes are speculative, but Hawking uses them to lead on to a serious point: that a few life forms could be intelligent and pose a threat. Hawking believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity.
He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”
He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
Does Hawking have a case? I think he makes a compelling one. But I surmise that any possible aliens have passed by here billions of years ago, already leaving evidence of their existence in their wake.
My blog pal Rick Phillips of The Heavy Stuff has an unique take on the UFO phenomenon and it nearly matches my own theories.
BYOEs or ‘Billion Year Old Entities”
Recently, I’ve been having some fun commenting with Greg Bishop of Ufo Mystic and others – on my Ufo Disclosure Countdown Clock blog (I’ll put that link at the bottom) UDCC about `Billion’ – with a B – Billion year old entities. And, despite that post – I want to further expand upon the concept – and perhaps, tie it back into anomalous events humans experience.
Now, in my UDCC post and comments I stated that most probably any entity that we would encounter that was a Billion years old – would most likely be a `machine-hybrid’ that was most likely at one time `put into motion’ by a biological entity like a human or comparable creature on another planet hospitable to life. Which is really nothing more than classic science fiction that a species creates an `eternal representation’ of themselves that wanders the Universe with a set of purposes by the `beings’ who create such a machine to represent themselves in Long Time. Long time being that view of time that would try to outlast the very structure of time-space itself.
And, I will get to some specifics I’ve considered along these lines soon.
Meanwhile, I got to doing a little internet digging on this subject (finding that I was indeed number one on page one of google for `billion year old entities’) – looking for what type of life has been around on Earth for the longest time — 1 Billion Years — Green Algae
“Although the division between a colony with specialized cells and a multicellular organism is not always clear, around 1 billion years agothe first multicellular plants emerged, probably green algae.“
And, from this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldest_life comes this
Various claims have been made about reviving bacterial spores to active metabolism after millions of years. There are claims of spores from amber being revived after 40 million years, and spores from salt deposits in New Mexico being revived after 240 million years. These claims have been made by credible researchers, but are not universally accepted. A Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) called Prometheus was measured by ring count at 4,862 years old when it was felled in 1964. This is the greatest verified age for any living organism at the time of its killing. The Hydrozoan species Turritopsis nutricula is capable of cycling from a mature adult stage to an immature polyp stage and back again. This means that there may be no natural limit to its life span. However, no single specimen has been observed for any extended period, and it is impossible to estimate the age of a specimen. The Antarctic sponge Cinachyra antarctica has an extremely slow growth rate in the low temperatures of the Antarctic Ocean. One specimen has been estimated to be 1,550 years old.
- As with all long-lived plant and fungal species, no individual part of a clonal colony is alive(in the sense of active metabolism) for more than a very small fraction of the life of the entire clone. Some clonal colonies may be fully connected via their root systems, while most are not actually interconnected, but are genetically identical clones which populated an area through vegetative reproduction. Ages for clonal colonies, often based on current growth rates, are estimates.
- A huge colony of the sea grass Posidonia oceanica in the Mediterranean Sea could be up to 100,000 years old. “
Whew, ………………… so let it be said, that when talking about Billion Year Old Entities – what I am going to be talking about is a `Space’ – an – `Object’ – that has literally been `in existence’ for one Billion years. Unlike anything on Earth has ever existed. So, perhaps almost obviously – our definition of `living’ – being ascribed to such an object is tentative – but – EXISTING – absolutely. Existing with a purpose – absolutely. With intentionalities. With actualization.
Such beings would be above us as we are above slime-mold. And they would have no trouble popping in and out of the Universe at will.
My variance on this theory is that these entities might very well be our own descendents, if we accept the idea that time is holistic, not linear. And that the idea of a Technological Singularity is possible, thus the result of it could bring about the uber-evolution of entities that can exist in the past, present and future simultaneously.
It could explain the lack of SETI results too.
Here’s more commentary about the “trickster” element of the UFO phenomenon and the possible nature of the “entities” involved.
I listened to just a few minutes of last night’s program, and found last night’s guest Christopher O’Brien extremely interesting. (Who mentioned Tonnies by the way, in terms of researchers, thinkers and writers considering the alien-ETH vs. Trickster/Something else idea.) O’Brien has a new book: “Stalking the Trickster”, which of course I will have to read. (I wonder why O’Brien didn’t mention George Hansen and his work, The Trickster and the Paranormal? Maybe he did and I didn’t catch it.) O’Brien, who has been investigating UFO, cattle mutes and other UAD’s, high strangeness in general, etc. in Colorado, is the author of several articles on these events as well as three books about the strange happenings in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. O’Brien, who has had his own UFO experiences, has come to a place where he thinks much more is going on than a simplistic ET explanation. yet. Isn’t is possible it’s both? Maybe I want to cling to this idea because I find both possibilities equally intriguing: space beings from Mars, and ultra/inter dimensional, terrestrial other . . .
Round and round we go it seems, for no one can dismiss the Trickster behavior in so much of UFO and other weird areas (Fortean, paranormal, etc.) and yet… and
Or, it could be some of the aliens are capable of manifesting such behaviors so ancient and convoluted they appear to be beyond what’s now become a jaded explanation for some: the ET. I think some consider ET to be advanced technologically, but don’t go beyond that. Aliens, some of them anyway, could very well be exceedingly capable of performing all kinds of feats that appear almost magical to us, and so, we call them angels, or demons, or Tricksters, or inter-dimensional whatevers. And maybe some of the ETs are all of those things, and it’s all in the naming. Angels and demons are ET, or the aliens are angels and demons? Same thing, different names, different human created constructs made to control and indoctrinate. Meanwhile, the ETs/angels/demons are doing their thing, and they don’t care what we call them.
Ancient time warping groovy effects inter-dimensional, or aliens from space? Why couldn’t the space-man from Mars be perfectly capable of performing tricks for our entertainment? Why force the space being into a box; aliens are supposed to act this way, and if they don’t, they’re something else. Why do we think we can figure them out, predict their behaviors, assume their motivations, presume their cultures and their abilities?
It’s possible some ETs mimic other non-human behaviors: ghosts, or who knows what. Fairies, angels, gods. . . an alien very well might want to confuse us, or maybe, it’s just playing around. They could know how to manipulate things that stress our credibility: we can accept there are aliens on Mars (or wherever) and can travel in UFOs, but they can’t visit us on the astral plane. When that happens, we shift from alien to something else; angel, god, ultra terrestrial, etc. Maybe it’s as simple as it seems: aliens can manipulate a lot more than we think.
Often when we talk about ET we present it as if there is just one kind of ET. “ET” we say, as if it’s a single entity. It seems pretty obvious there are many kinds of ET (Dr. Greer’s didactic list of specific numbers excluded) and some of these aliens are advanced not just technologically, but in so many other ways as well.
Again, these beings might or might not be material at all, thus prompting the question whether their very nature isn’t material at all, they only take the material from our environment when they manifest themselves.
The Myth of Roswell is one of those things that persist for eternity it seems like. The continuing litany of stories, lies, coverups, witnesses, alien corpses, dummies, weather balloons, crashed saucers, telepathic flight controls, secret projects and other plethora of supposed truth and legend have fucked up serious discourse of the UFO phenomenon for the past sixty-one years and probably for another sixty-one as well.
And just when you think the last surviving eyewitness to the whole sordid affair has passed away and left their “memoirs” in the hands of anxious relatives hoping to get on the financial gravy train that is Roswell, another pops up.
Take for example Matilda O’Donnell MacElroy, a retired Army Air Force nurse who had a “telepathic” interview with one of the surviving crash aliens from Roswell:
“…all IS-BEs could be helped to become more aware of the actual situation on Earth through the information in this envelope. This is why I sent these letters and transcripts to you. I want you to get these documents published. I want IS-BEs on Earth to have a chance to find out what is really happening on Earth.
Most people will not believe any of it, I’m sure. It seems too incredible. No “reasonable” person would ever believe a word of it. However, it only seems “incredible” to an IS-BE whose memory has been erased and replaced with false information inside the electronically controlled illusion of a prison planet. We must not allow the apparent incredibility of our situation to prevent us from facing the reality of it.
Frankly, “reasons” have nothing to do with reality. There are no reasons. Things are what they are. If we don’t face the facts of our situation, we’re going to stay under the thumb of the “Old Empire” forever! The biggest weapon the “Old Empire” has left now is our ignorance of what they are doing to all the IS-BEs on Earth. Disbelief and secrecy are the most effective weapons they have!
The government agencies that classified the enclosed transcripts as “TOP SECRET” are run by IS-BEs who are nothing more than mindless automatons covertly ordered about through hypnotic commands given by the “Old Empire” prison operators. They are the unknowing slaves of unseen slave masters — and all the more enslaved by their willingness to be slaves.
Most of the IS-BEs on Earth are good, honest, able beings: artists, managers, geniuses, free thinkers and revolutionaries who have harmed no one, really. They are no threat to anyone except the criminals who have imprisoned them.
This is why I am asking you to tell this story. Please share these transcripts with as many people as you can. If the people of Earth are told what is really going on here, perhaps they will begin to remember who they are, and where they came from.
“Is-BEs” as applied here mean “Immortal Spiritual Beings”. Here we go again, intergalactic aliens coming here to the hapless “Planet of the Chimps” as Nemo describes us at times, to school us about great spiritual values, wake us up to the great evil that has controlled us for 6000 years so they can welcome us into the great Universal Brotherhood of Light and Wisdom.
*Sigh* That and a buck fifty-two won’t even get you a bag of compost from a dollar store. Well maybe.
And here’s another interesting point I noticed about this little story. Looky at this symbol here:
It is the insignia on the uniform the ‘alien’ wore whom Matilda “interviewed” telepathically. It represents “The Domain”, the intergalactic organization the alien is a member of. It is supposed to represent the ‘unity’ of the Universe. Now take a good, long hard look at it, where have you seen a symbol like that before?
Bingo! And reward yourself with whatever decadent pleasure you want if you said Star Trek! Or to be more exact, the symbol of Star Fleet. Now I had no idea about this comparative symbolism until I read Chris Knowles’ Secret Sun website and he did a recent story about Gene Roddenberry and possible esoteric connections with the “Council of Nine” (The number nine itself has occult value attached to it) :
In early 1975, a broke and depressed Roddenberry was approached by a British former race car driver named Sir John Whitmore, who was associated with a strange organization called ‘Lab-9.’ Though unknown to the public, Lab-9 were ostensibly a sort of an independent version of the X-Files, dedicated to the research of paranormal phenomena. However, Lab-9 had another, more complex agenda- they later claimed to be in contact with a group of extraterrestrials called the ‘Council of Nine’ or simply ‘The Nine’, who had been communicating through ‘channelers’ or psychic mediums.
The Nine claimed to be the creators of mankind, and had informed the channelers that they would be returning to Earth soon. Lab-9 had wanted to hire Roddenberry to write a screenplay based on the Council of Nine’s imminent return. To help Roddenberry in his research, Lab-9 flew him out to their headquarters, located on a large estate in Ossining, NY. There, Roddenberry met and interviewed several psychics, and prepared the groundwork for his script.
Now given the supposed ‘telepathic’ abilities of the “Domain” and this “Council of Nine”, could there be a connection between the two ‘organizations’ and the now deceased MacElroy and Roddenberry? Did one influence the other? If so, how? A more fundamental issue arising out of this is “Is there such a thing as mental telepathy?” Can we speak to each other and creatures from other places by thought alone?
Did they ‘create’ us, or have a hand ( or the analog there of ) in the process?
Are they modern religions hoping to gain converts in this technological epoch?
Or are these things just circus tricks to fleece the public of their hard earned, rapidly depreciating greenbacks?
As always, I encourage the InnerTubes audience to think and decide for themselves.
This past Friday I participated in a discussion on Paul Gilster’s blog Centauri Dreams. Paul concentrates on mainstream astronomy, real-science interstellar travel and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI or ETI). Believe it or not, I hang out there often and sometimes manage to throw in an intelligent comment or two. The post in discussion was Dyson Spheres: Hoping to be Surprised. The discussion was not only should we be searching for radio signals from ETI (looking more and more unlikely), we should be looking for signs of ‘astroengineering’. Examples of astroengineering would be Ring Worlds, Alderson Disks, whole planetary systems swept clean of dust other than the system’s Kuiper Belt, worlds or stars travelling at extraordinary speeds (already been detected) and Dyson Spheres, or ‘Shells’. A Dyson shell totally envelopes it’s star, using all of the solar energy available. When observed from outside of it’s system, the Shell would resemble a red dwarf star, emitting huge amounts of infrared radiation. There are some astronomers trying to detect potential Dyson Shell candidates now using methods that measures a candidate star’s infrared emissions.
Gilster also brings up an excellent point that I have postulated on other science sites, “How could we detect engineering projects from intelligences thousands, maybe millions of years ahead of us?” Would ants living in an anthill by an Interstate highway recognise the highway for what it is? Would chimps using sticks to pick out insects from termite hills know what a fork is? Would beavers know what Boulder Dam is?
See the point?
And as large as these structures are supposed to be and visible using 20th century tech, so far in our computer assisted 21st century we’ve yet to see such objects. How come we haven’t seen any of these things yet?
In my view, astroengineering projects by beings million of years beyond us, if they still built anything at all, would be indistinguishable from observing objects appearing natural. According to science-fiction author Karl Schroeder, being in harmony with nature is an efficient method of data storage and engineering:
…the logic behind such monstrous engineering projects as the “Kardashev-II civilization,” where a species decides to capture all the energy radiated by its sun, generally by building a giant Dyson sphere around it. I think the idea’s a perfect example of homocentrism, or more exactly the kind of techno-centrism that assumes that future civilizations will orient themselves around the same central issue as 20th century humanity (in this case energy use). Here’s my off-the-cuff comments to Milan about energy efficiency as it relates to the visibility of spacefaring civilizations:
Notes to Milan
I’ve been doing a lot of consulting/writing about “green” technologies lately, and one idea that comes up a lot is the concept of ecosystem services. An ecosystem service is something you get for free from nature, whose value can be directly calculated by estimating what it would cost for us to provide the service ourselves. For instance, water treatment: recently a greenbelt area was declared around Toronto, basically a crescent-shaped region where real estate and industrial development is banned. A key reason for doing this was the discovery that these forested lands filter and treat the entire aquifer for the Toronto region. If they were developed, much of the fresh water in the region would dry up. We’d then have to import/produce fresh water ourselves, and the cost of doing that can be directly calculated, and compared to the financial benefits of developing the land. It turns out that the land, left alone, provides a set of essential services more cheaply than we can provide them technologically.
Now in the realm of information processing, it turns out to be cheaper for many organisms to offload calculations into the natural world; cockroaches use a clever mechanism that’s directly tied in to air movement and shadow angle to directly cause leg movement (they scurry away when something swings at them). This mechanism essentially bypasses the nervous system because that’s too slow. A partial program is in general any algorithm where key steps in the algorithm are offloaded in this manner: the classic example is (for Americans) how do you catch a pop-fly in baseball? AI researchers used to think that it required a sophisticated internal model and some nasty differential equations solved by the nervous system; in fact, runners catch a ball by running backward while keeping the ball at a fixed angle with respect to the horizon. This combination of factors substitutes successfully for the calculation.
Combining these two ideas, of ecosystem services and partial programs, we can propose an economic argument for the invisibility of advanced civilizations. A settlement that uses solely ecosystem services is called a ‘zero footprint’ settlement (another word for sustainable). Zero-footprint means environmentally neutral; it also means invisible to the mechanisms we usually use to detect the presence of technological activity (because our means for doing so generally involve detecting the waste products of systems running against or in parallel to natural processes). In addition, a civilization that offloads as much of its data processing as possible into natural processes in the physical world, through partial programs, is more energy-efficient than one that builds “computronium” to do its thinking, and probably calculates faster (because the energy required by an algorithmic process and the speed with which it’s executed are related). The more such processes are substituted by integration with the natural world, the harder it will be for us to see the operations of that civilization from interstellar distances. In fact, I would argue that a civilization that integrates efficiently with its environment on these two levels will be invisible by definition.
After I read this, I had one of those ‘Wow, I could’ve had a V-8!’ moments and it made perfect sense. But after thinking about it for a while, this involves a certain amount of ‘homocentric’ attitude too. Do most intelligences develop energy sustainable technologies as their civilization progresses? Do they go through a form of ‘Technological Singularity’ as a result? If so, do they ‘upload’ into the environment? Should we look for a civilizations’ ‘upload’ or ‘transcension’ fossil instead? And how would we recognise one?
You see, because we have only one sample of an intelligent technological civilization, us, any discussion about ETI, astroengineering and SETI is going to be homocentric, it can’t help being anything but!
This was a great thought experiment and Paul still has the post up. Schroeder’s post is still up at his site too. If you’re curious about SETI and why we haven’t detected any ETIs yet, check these out.